Feed on

The second day in San Francisco was spent at the Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park.  The Botanical Garden was one of my favorite places when I lived in California.  It’s filled with birds and it’s beautiful.  We saw:

Scrub Jay


California Towhee – one of my favorites because of the little chip chip noise they make


Some kind of warbler or vireo.


Western Phoebe


My favorite section of the botanical garden is the Andean Cloud Forest.  That is the place where I took some of my favorite hummingbird pictures and the only hummingbird nest I’ve ever found.  It also has the prettiest flowers.





As I took pictures of flowers, Ava played a game where picking up flower petals gave her power and she slowed down as she lost the flower petals.  She also found berries that she would squish to let the power out.


It was such a delight to see Ava having fun in a place that is so special to me.


I had such a hard time when I lived in California.  Everything was a struggle.  I love making new memories with Ava that replace the less pleasant memories.



I took Ava on a trip to San Francisco for Labor Day Weekend.  It was so much fun!  She finally stopped asking to move to Florida because now she wants to move to San Francisco.  I told her if she goes to college in San Francisco, I’ll happily move.

We stayed at the Marriott Marquis on Mission, which is perfect for anyone with kids.  It’s across the street from a Trader Joe’s, an Old Navy, and a Gap Kids.  I felt comfortable the whole time knowing that if Ava freaked out about her clothing, I could buy more.  And when she requested apple/grape juice, she didn’t even realize how lucky she was to request a type of juice that is only available at Trader Joe’s.

I chose this hotel because it’s near Yerba Buena Park, which looked like a great place for Ava to hang out.  After we arrived, I took her to the park and she was ecstatic.



After the park we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA).  Ava is used to interactive kids’ museums and so when we entered the museum she had her hand out ready to touch a sculpture.  I had to tell her that you’re not allowed to touch the art at SF MOMA and she was pissed.  Look at this face!

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She demanded to leave and I had to promise her dessert to stay.  We made it through the first floor.  She perked up a bit when she realized that she could photo bomb my pictures.


I got a little emotional when we saw a Frida painting because Ava is such a huge fan of her work.  We have a great book about Frida and the little creatures she would paint to try and escape her physical pain.  Unfortunately, I only snapped a quick picture with Ava in front of the picture and I cut off the top, which showed one of the little creatures (a bird) similar to the ones in our book.  But I love that Ava got to see one of her paintings in person.


We made it through one floor of the museum (of about seven) and I think that’s pretty impressive considering it was the same day as the flight to San Francisco.  I found a legitimate ramen place by the hotel where they asked questions about real ramen, like how firm did I want the noodles?  Ava liked it there too.



After ramen Ava got her wish and we stopped at a place that makes the most amazing cream puffs.  Ava loved it and she went to bed really easily after such a big day.






Big Cottonwood

It’s just Ava and I now on our trips and it’s been great.  Sometimes I pick the places we go, but other times Ava asks to go somewhere.  I’ve discovered that the thing that guarantees a good trip is to let Ava do her own thing.  We went to Big Cottonwood and had lunch before hiking.  All these birds were interested in Ava’s sandwich so she tried to make a nest to tempt them.  In this picture below, she’s sitting on the nest.


I chose Big Cottonwood because I’ve been trying to get Ava more interested in hiking.  She loves the outdoors and if she can develop some stamina, we could have some hiking adventures.



Ava has been really interested in animals lately and we’ve been getting her a variety of non-fiction library books.  I think her favorite one is about snails.  One day we were outside looking for snails and Ava said, “We won’t find them, they’re nocturnal!”  Another time we were reading a book about eggs and on a page showing that the eggs can be camouflaged by being speckled like the surrounding rocks, Ava said “that way the eggs are hidden from predators.”

At Big Cottonwood Ava was really excited about the water bugs that stay on top of the water.  We talked about surface tension, but I’m not sure she grasped it.


We didn’t make it very far on the trail, but that’s fine because Ava had a great time and I did get one picture in a forrest.




Heber Fun

Ava and I made it down to Heber yesterday.  We used to go down to Heber several times during the summer, but there’s so much that Ava loves to do in Salt Lake City that we just hadn’t left.  Ava complained so much on the drive because she’s used to everything being within 15 minutes of the house.  40 minutes seemed like an eternity.


Ava was very skeptical about nature at first, but when I showed her the river she was so happy.  Ava is crazy tough because the Provo River is COLD.  I could only go in for a minute or two, but Ava wouldn’t get out.  At one point she slipped in the water and her whole body fell in.  I thought that was going to be the end of our trip, but miraculously she just laughed!


She kept trying to get me to spend more time in the water.  She would say “Momma, come in!  Let me teach you to be brave!”


The next best part about Heber was that Ava found a grasshopper.  I think I can get her to go anywhere now if I say there’s a grasshopper there.



Afterwards we got ice cream at the Heber Valley Milk and Artisan Cheese store.  And before we left I drove us to another place where you can always find Sandhill Cranes.  Ava was so excited by the Sandhill Cranes; they did not reciprocate.


Before I forget, I have two great examples of Ava’s vocabulary.  I’ve been reading a lot of nature books lately and Ava’s really absorbing the information.

  • Ava and I were walking around outside looking for snails.  Ava said, “We won’t find them because they’re nocturnal.”
  • We were reading a book about eggs and there was a part with a speckled egg next to rocks.  The description included a definition of camouflage.  Ava said, “That’s so predators don’t get them.”


Ava comes from a long line of sight-challenged people.  As a result, it was unsurprising to discover that she also needs glasses.  But fortunately, they make some gorgeous glasses for kids.


The glasses staff at the eye doctors were trying to convince me that she could only wear ugly thick cheap looking frames because kids aren’t careful and tend to break glasses.  But that’s so wrong because these glasses are tough and Ava is very careful with them.  Ava told me today that she loves them.  She gets compliments every time we go out.


Short Sleeves

Last year Ava refused to wear any shorts or short-sleeved shirts because clothing had to go all the way down. This was a problem because it’s very hot in the summary in Utah.  Ava basically didn’t leave the house for all of August last year.



The first exception to her long-sleeve rule was that she would wear the green dress above because she loved it so much that she would wear it regardless.  And that dress worked as a gateway dress that made her willing to wear shorts, but only if they had birds on them.  After that I was able to convince her to wear any short sleeves or shorts as long as the clothing had a bird on it.  Usually I don’t spend much money on her clothing because I have Gap points tied to a credit card, but with this new breakthrough and a Tea Collection sale, I spent $200 on an entire wardrobe of bird outfits.


She also makes an exception for this blue dress because she decided that this is Elsa’s dress from Frozen.



Ava is a little sponge right now.  She’s watched Frozen 20 or 30 times by now and she quietly sings the songs to herself.  It’s so charming.


At night we read three books before Ava goes to bed.  Sometimes Ava asks questions, but sometimes she is really quiet.  But this girl, don’t ever think she’s not paying attention.  Instead, she just doesn’t want you to know how smart she is.  She’s quite the opposite of me, heh.  I was always the first person to raise my hand in class.

We will read a book one time and she has it memorized.  The second time we read it, she will ask questions about the book before we get to that part.  For example, we’ve been going through all these educational books about different subjects, like bugs, birds, and space.  I was reading one about ocean life for the second time and Ava asked why the starfish’s stomach comes out.  She remembered that starfishes expel their stomachs, surround their food, and suck it back inside!


There is a Great Blue Heron on St. George Island that has the most amazing life.

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There’s a guy who fishes every day and, judging by his leathery skin, he must fish for five hours a day.  Each time he catches a fish, he throws it to this heron that is always a few feet away.  This heron is so tame that I took the picture above with my 55mm lens.


I loved that the gulls weren’t like the California Gulls that you see in Utah or the Glaucous Gulls in California.  They are pretty Laughing Gulls with black heads.


They also have no fear of people, even intense bird loving kids.


I loved seeing all the Ruddy Turnstones.  They have such pretty plumage.


Ava is so interested in birds, I’m hoping she’s almost old enough to start birding with me.



Ava is Four Years Old

For Ava’s birthday Jon gave her a sleeve of crackers to feed the birds


Independence/Motor Skills

  • Ava told us the other day that she is no longer a cat.  Even though I had worried for awhile that being a cat was going to cause problems with making friends, I’m sad that she’s moved on from that stage.  I think she’d been a cat for about two years.
  • Ava is getting much better at playing on her own.  She acts out complicated scenarios with her toys.  She loves injecting any drama into their interactions.  The other night, I felt like such a great parent because she had a bird that was upset because he wanted to be called a name that was different from his name and she worked through the steps that I implement when she’s having a tantrum.  She acknowledged that the bird was sad, but she wasn’t able to change the bird’s name.  She even used a gentle voice that I think was supposed to be my voice.
  • Ava is getting even better at playing with kids.  She used to do parallel play and not quite know how to interact with other kids, but now she plays dress up and she acts out some scenarios with the kids.
  • Ava is always convinced that I’m about to leave her.  Every time I come out of my office, she says “Where are you going?”  I thought that working from home would make Ava less clingy, but I think it’s had the opposite effect.

It was Ava’s fourth birthday, but she asked for five candles


Foods and Liquids

  • Ava loves macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, cabbage stew, scrambled eggs, lentils, french fries, spaghetti, sushi, and bananas.  She likes a lot of other food as long it doesn’t include lettuce, black pepper, or any heat from spice whatsoever.



  • Ava falls asleep pretty quickly as long as she isn’t allowed to talk and you play Ivan Moravec’s Chopin Nocturnes.

horseshoe crabs are very interesting underneath


Language Skills

  • Where to even start?
  • Ava has an astounding vocabulary and she’s clearly an only child who talks to adults all day long that also treat her like a person and not a child.
  • She’s been very interesting in the meaning of words.  Ava particularly likes to ask about idioms.  She used to laugh and laugh if you said you were losing your marbles or you tossed your cookies.  Now she wants to now about the idioms that aren’t so obvious, like don’t let the cat out of the bag.  Why, mom, why?
  • Ava is such a good person and language matters to her very much.  She doesn’t like it when I malign anyone’s character, alive or inanimate.  I can’t call the bananas old, for example.
  • In Florida the restaurant that we went to had almost all Laughing Gulls surrounding it and one gull with a grey head.  The grey-headed gull was grumpy and he would yell at any Laughing Gull that tried to land near him so I called him Grumpy Seagull.  Ava felt like I was too hard on him so she renamed him Sweet Seagull and said he was no longer grumpy!  She loved him so much, she’s pretended that he flew back with us to Utah.

It’s no wonder Ava wants to move to Florida.  Where else can you find two frogs inside an ashtray?


We spent the last week in Florida where Ava got to see two grandparents on my side and one grandparent and an aunt on Jon’s side.  When we left, Ava declared that she wanted to live in Florida.  I think it’s because she loved seeing family, but I also suspect it’s because she doesn’t understand that vacations are more fun than real life.  I tried explaining that Jon and I have to work and can’t spend the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the pool when it’s not vacation, but she was not persuaded.


We stayed on St. George Island, which has a lot of beautiful houses and no good restaurants.  Fortunately Jon found one restaurant where we had the majority of our meals – Lynne’s Quality Oysters.  The restaurant is positioned right next to the water and the entire underside of the restaurant was filled with oyster shells from all the food they serve.


Jon alone ate 120 oysters during the trip.  I loved everything on their menu, especially the crab, although I only ate it once because the cracking of the crab legs was too physical for Ava.  She’s okay with eating the meat completely disassociated from the shellfish, but when faced with the crab leg she was completely horrified.

This was Ava’s favorite restaurant too because all you had to do was walk to the edge of the water to find a hermit crab.


I love any restaurant where I can take Ava back and forth to eat and wander.  It’s much easier than making her stay at the table entertained the whole time.

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The house that we rented was the nicest rental I’ve ever stayed in.  It was two floors of living space with its own elevator, heated pool, and golf cart.  The house is up on stilts and our bedroom was on the third floor so I walked up between 20 and 30 flights of stairs a day, which was amazing.  Ava loved the golf cart.


Ava also loved the pool, especially when someone pretended to be a water monster for her.  She still keeps asking “What’s a cracken?”








Ava Tidbits


I’ve been saving up all these Ava tidbits.  This is the funniest one:

We’ve been working on consequences with Ava lately. One night she wasn’t allowed to fall asleep with a toy but Jon promised to put the toy next to her after she feel asleep if she was good so she would wake up with the toy.

Jon: I promise I’ll put the toy next to you and there will be a consequence if I forget. What consequence should I get for forgetting?

Ava: No coffee ever again.

I had expected her to say something that would be important to her, like that Jon couldn’t have cookies for a day.  But she knew exactly what would hurt him.  I think this bodes well for trying to teach her empathy since she’s already capable of understanding what’s important to other people.


Ava’s been extra concerned about people staying with her and leaving lately.  When I go to the grocery store Ava asks, “Where are you going?  Will you come back?”  It’s especially funny because I work from home and I’m around her always.  I went to a baby shower a few months ago for three hours and she was upset for a week!  It’s only gotten worse since Stonewall died.

But Ava is also very sweet because when I leave she insists on giving me a hug and a kiss.  Sometimes she says, “Keep that kiss.”


Ava has always loved the signs prohibiting things.  Every time I use the hair dryer she wants an explanation about the icon on it that says you can’t put a plugged-in hair dryer in a bathtub full of water.  But she started getting savy to the fact that we ignore a lot of the rules on things.  Like how shopping carts have signs that say you can’t put the kid in the body of the cart.  Ava loves sitting in the body so much, sometimes she makes the reusable bags into a nest for herself.

Now Ava is learning to use the signs against people.  We got Ava a bounce house for her birthday last year and we bring it out sometimes because it brings out all the neighborhood kids to play.  The nicest girl on the street, Lydia, wanted to wrestle Ava in the bounce house.  Lydia is three years older than Ava so she won.  Ava got out of the bounce house, found the rule on the side that prohibits wrestling in the bounce house, and said she couldn’t wrestle anymore.



RIP Stonewall

On Sunday Stonewall started having seizures.  We brought him to the vet and got him anti-seizure medication, but it wasn’t enough.  He died during the night.


My poor buddy.  We will really miss him.  He was such a happy little guy with such a loud voice.  He loved to get into things and during the spring he and Conner would mate almost constantly.  Stonewall hated Trevor and would try to taunt him.  Stonewall’s yell in response was so loud you could hear it from any part of the house.


Sometimes when I worked Stonewall would sit on my arm or preen my hair.  He was such a nice work companion.


Conner is taking the loss really well.  When Audrey died he was depressed for months.  I showed Conner Stonewall’s body and I think he understood, but he hasn’t needed much more than some extra scratches.

Rest in peace, Stonewall, we will miss you.

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